Charley’s Tale


Ellen Pendergrass led a charmed life till the day her daughter, Charlotte, was born in 1938.  At Ellen’s birth, her parents celebrated the long hoped-for arrival of a perfect daughter born ten years after the last of their six sons.  Ellen was all any parent could have imagined, dainty, feminine, and delightful.  She was all the more welcome, since her mother had despaired of ever having a daughter.  Both parents doted on her and were well-able to indulge her since her father was from a long line of bankers.

A high-minded young woman, well-aware of her importance, Ellen studied music and art at a notable Southern Women’s College, though she’d never need to earn her own way.  No one was surprised when she accepted the proposal of a wealthy plantation owner’s son.  It was the wedding of the decade.  The father of the bride built the young couple a Victorian mansion in the finest part of town and Ellen’s husband, a doctor, spent his time between his practice and his father’s plantation.  His practice grew so quickly, he had to hire a farm manager when he inherited upon his father’s death.  Ellen, like her mother before her, gave birth to boys, though she yearned for a daughter to follow her in society.

At thirty-nine, Ellen feared she was entering menopause, when to her great joy, she realized she was pregnant.  Surely, she’d have a daughter this time.  Her husband attended the home birth, of course.  Ellen was relieved to hear a healthy squall at delivery, but Charles didn’t meet her eyes as he handed the swaddled infant to Cora, the maid.  “It looks like a healthy girl.”  In minutes, Cora diapered and swaddled the babe and passed her to Ellen to nurse. 

Ellen counted all the little fingers and toes as she admired her little one.  “I do believe this is the prettiest one yet.”

Charles answered, “You always say that,” then whisked the infant away immediately instead of leaving her with her mother, as he had at all the other births. “Get some rest.”

Ellen was glad to rest, but was a little concerned that Charles had taken the baby. 

“Cora, was everything alright with the baby?” she quizzed Cora.

“That baby looked plenty healthy to me,” Cora turned her back as she tidied things up. “Shore had a fine set of lungs on her.  You ain’t as young as you was.  Git you some rest while you can.”

Miffed at the reference to her age, Ellen snapped at Cora. “I am plenty young enough to tend my baby, thank you.  I have the finest skin of any of my friends.”

“Yes’m,” Cora answered.

To be continued.

Hard Time Marrying Part 27

About three weeks later Anya awoke to a back ache.  It got worse as the morning drew on till she suddenly wet herself.  She was mortified, though she’d gotten used the increased demands pregnancy put on her bladder.  As she corralled Sally and set about cleaning herself up, labor pains began in earnest.  Anya knew little about birth except what she’d seen from her step-mother and from life on the farm, but she knew she’d better get help.  Joe and Little Joe were working in a far-off field, so she started a fire and loaded it with pine straw so it would make an impressive smoke to signal him home.  Home in minutes, he found Anya with her pains regular and about twenty minutes apart.  Hitching up the wagon and loading the children, he kissed Anya and warned her.  “Stay in the cabin near the bed.  I’ll be back with Emma quick as I can.  Git up an’ walk if you have to, but don’t leave the cabin.”  The horse trotted across the prairie, bouncing the kids Joe had taken time to tie in the wagon bed.  Over the next two hours, Anya’s pain increased in frequency and intensity.  Just as she feared the baby would come into the world unattended, Joe showed up with Emma.  Within minutes, Emma handed a baby girl off to Joe, waiting behind her with a warmed blanket.  “This baby ain’t big as a minute, but she’s purty like her mama.”

Joe held the baby close as his eyes filled with tears.  Moments later, Emma took the child and helped Anya put her to the breast. He looked from the tiny girl to the woman he loved.  “Our first baby. I ain’t never felt so fine. Thank you, Anya.”

Anya wept, feeling her life had finally begun.



That was weird.  I heard tiptoeing and a door quietly locking.  I tiptoed to my parent’s room and found their door locked!  Their door was never even shut except around Christmas.  Mother must have gotten scared and locked it.   Assuming the worst, I pounded and screeched, “Mama!  Mama!  Your door’s locked. Help!  I can’t get in!!!” Continue reading

Don’t Bother Reaching for Your Umbrella, It’s Probably Broken!

Baby group Kids small

Top pic:  Me and the kids in baby’s first days.  Notice how I don’t appear to know how to manage.  A picture is worth a thousand words.

Bottom Pic: Children about six months later

The baby was tiny. I hadn’t seen anything but tonsils, poop, and Sesame Street in three weeks. My three-year-old-jabbered non-stop. My ears were sore. Naturally, with the clear-thinking of a woman with near terminal post-partum depression, I took full responsibility everything that went wrong. I don’t know if my husband was a good father or not, since he Continue reading

Welcome Home, Baby

imageMother had said she was having a baby when I was about eight but I wasn’t particularly interested in babies, So didn’t think a lot about it.   I didn’t make the connection when when Daddy took us to spend the night with Miss Myra, one night.  I think we were supposed to spend the night with Aunt Julie, but she’d gotten sick and couldn’t keep us, Continue reading

Baby Blues and Green Parents


We were a good couple.  Long before we got married, we agreed completely on important things..foreign policy, religion, life plans.  Then we got married.  Life was idyllic.  We were both in college, working student jobs.  Bud had saved over $500 and student loans covered my tuition. Continue reading

Broken Hearts and Pink High Heels

Kid in pink dot heels          Mother was always last on her own list, but she’d had enough when she admired Cousin Franny’s new dress, and Franny turned her nose up and said, “This old thing.  It ain’t fit for nothing.”   Franny was a doll-like woman who reveled in only weighing ninety pounds and wearing a size four shoe.  She dressed beautifully even if she charged her clothes and had to outrun creditors.  She took pleasure in making sure other women in the family couldn’t ignore her, putting them down at every opportunity.  Her girls were daintier, cuter, better dressed, and she had to work hard to get them to eat; a stark contrast to our voracious appetites and hand-me-downs.  I always wanted to be a picky eater at Franny’s, but her goodies always suckered me in.

“This ole thing,” was the last straw for Mother, a giant of a woman at five feet and one hundred and ten pounds.  She always indulged herself and made sure she had a new dress and shoes after having a new baby.  Spurred on by Franny’s snotty put downs, she pinched back nickels and quarters her whole pregnancy and was able to buy enough fabric to make two beautiful spring dresses and buy two pairs of matching pastel pumps to finish off her gorgeous ensembles.  She agonized over which to wear at the first family gathering to show off her slender figure and new baby. Finally, she decided to wear the green and save the pink outfit for church Sunday, her first back since having the baby.  Not surprisingly, she was the center of attention.  Her dress clung to her tiny waist as her post-partum bosoms imposed on her bodice.  All her sisters in law praised her eye for design and her perfect sewing.  She wore an apron to protect her new dress while helping get lunch on the table and carefully kept a burp towel on her shoulder while feeding her pretty new baby.  Her only regret was that she hadn’t been able to show off the pink dress and pumps that day, too.  Even better, Franny was bewailing her fifth pregnancy that day.  She was miserably sick but Mother saw her envious glances between episodes of throwing up.  It was a perfect day.

Mother needn’t have regretted not being able to show off her pink shoes that day.  She could always count on her children to anticipate her needs. At eleven Phyllis was a girly, girl. She got in Mother’s make up and gowns at every opportunity.  She wore dresses and wanted her hair curled every day.  She had coveted the beautiful shoes months before when Mother slipped them in. She was able to put them out of her mind when they disappeared deep in Mother’s closet, but as Mother twirled around in her new dress and mint green high heels, it was more than Phyllis could stand.  She was overcome with jealousy and righteous indignation. Mother had two new dresses and matching shoes to match and expected her to wear old scuffed saddle oxfords!!!  Phyllis sulked self-righteously until it got the best of her. Kicking the hated saddle oxfords far under the bed, she slipped in Mother’s closet to just see how the pink shoes felt.  They were perfect!!!   She had to wear them just a little while.  When she took a trial stroll by Mother, Mother didn’t say a word.  Okay.

After lunch that day, the kids went out to play. Predictably, it was not long before howling brought all the mothers flocking to the front yard.   The appropriate mother dragged the damaged kid in for examination and first aid, while the others ordered their kids to stop jumping off the high front porch in the mud.   Mother made a horrible realization.  Phyllis had abandoned her normal prissiness and joined the others, primly jumping off the high porch into the mud in Mother’s new pastel pink pumps……the ones she hadn’t even worn once!!!!!  Mother ordered her indoors, confiscated the precious shoes, and set Phyllis to cleaning the mud from the inside and outside while pondering the inevitable consequences she could expect once Mother had time to deal with her.

The shoes cleaned up better than Mother expected, so Mother was somewhat mollified and Phyllis’s life was spared.  The next Sunday came and went, and Mother looked great at church in her fancy new pink outfit.  Even that snooty Sally Greeley admired her.  Life was good.

Time rocked on.  Mother went to town on Thursdays to buy groceries and run her week’s errands.  She dressed in her pink outfit and was blissfully pushing her cart through the grocery store, generously acknowledging the compliments of all the other ladies who were also doing their Thursday shopping.  Mother was shopping for seven, so her cart was heavy as she teetered her way toward the checkout, a vision of pink loveliness.  An unhappy snap interrupted her pleasant jaunt.  Horrified, she looked down to see the heel of her pink pump snapped about one inch up its four inch height.  Worse yet, the break was not complete.  A thin sliver of dainty pink leather held the broken portion dangling crazily.  She looked around, hoping no one had noticed.  Fortunately, she and a couple of the children were alone in the aisle.  She sent one of them speeding for a roll of cellophane in hopes of salvaging her pride.  The tape held almost till she got near the front of the store, betraying her just as she was chatting with her friends, and of course, Sally Greeley was right there waiting for her, pretending to be sympathetic.

Must Not Have Been a Beautiful Baby

imageMy mother’s good friend Betty brought her new baby to church for the first time.  Mother rushed over to her friend, all prepared to gush over the little guy.  Betty had him wrapped in a beautifully crocheted shawl.  Flipping back the blanket, she revealed the homeliest, poor little guy Mother had seen in quiet a while  Shocked, Mother stammered, trying to remember the compliment she’d had at the ready before seeing him.  “Oh, oh!  It’s a baby, isn’t it!”

The Bearded Lady, Wet Panties, and My New Brother

beardI remember the day my brother was born.  I’d just turned three.  I woke up to find Mother gone, something I’d never experienced.  Grandma had come to stay a few days to help out, but had broken a rib in a fender-bender the day before, so she wasn’t up to much, but that’s a whole other story.  A neighbor stayed till with us till mid-morning, when a bearded Amazon identifying herself as Aunt Cynthia showed up to take care of us all.  I’d never seen such a thing in my life. She must have been overdue time off from the circus to be free on such short notice.

The whole crazy scenario was too much for my tiny mind, especially, the strange bearded behemoth.  I wasn’t buying any of it, so headed for the hills, in this case, the shrubs in our front yard.  Eventually, tiring of calling me, “Aunt Cynthia” hoisted Grandma out of bed long enough to gain my trust, luring me in with the promise of scrambled eggs and strawberry jam.  I was mortified to have wet my pants while in hiding.  It took me forever to make Aunt Cynthia understand I needed “panties” not “pennies.”

Despite the psychic trauma,  it ended well enough.  Mother got home in a day or two with my new brother.  Grandma was back on her feet.  Aunt Cynthia went home, but for some reason I never really bonded with her, maybe because she kept offering me pennies instead of dry underwear.  That’s kind of weird.